Better than February

januaryblues

I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. It all started when I happened to remember that today is January 27th.  Much to my dismay, there are still four more days to go in this month. As I shuffled to the kitchen to start my morning coffee, there was but one thought in my weary brain:

Will January ever end? 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Honestly, I don’t know why this particular month has seemed to drag by so very slowly. But it has, with one long day following another.

The two toddlers have been snotty-nosed, cranky and into everything that’s not tied down.  And if I’m not dealing with toddler tantrums, then it’s teenager angst. I can’t tell you which one is worse. Honestly, they are both bad.

January just also happens to be the month for our recertification as foster parents. It’s only slightly less harrowing than getting certified the first go around.  Together, Jon and I had to complete 15 hours of online training. Excuse me, but I’m so busy chasing our duel tornadoes (aka the foster babies) that I hardly have time to do anything else. Finding 15 hours to complete training is like asking me to find a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, I somehow managed to find them, so that particular stressor is finally behind me.

I haven’t been to church in 3 long weeks. Sickish toddlers kept me away two Sundays. The other Sunday I was out thanks to a two year old boy’s first science experiment involving a bottle of Zantac (that he somehow managed to open in spite of the child safety cap) and some kitchen cleaner. Concerned that he may have ingested some of the concoction, I stayed home and kept in close contact with a kind lady from the Poison Control Center.  Thankfully, no symptoms other than hyperactivity were noticed and calamity was once again avoided.

Then there is my house, the one which is once again for rent or for sale.  I could probably write an entire  blog post about that, but I won’t. It’s suffice to say that my current situation is nothing short of baffling. Changing renters should be simple enough. One renter moves out. Another one moves in. And yet this time around it has been anything but simple. I have never before had anyone threaten me to never contact them again, much less a person who was living on my property. <SIGH> Well, I have now. It happened this January.  And I didn’t even realize there was a problem between me and my former renter.

All month long it has been one thing after another. To me, it seems that …

January has become my prison. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last Friday, my sister had her baby. Sweet little Mallory Piper was born via C-section at about 8 am on January 23rd, weighing in at 7 lbs 15 oz.  She is perfectly healthy with the most adorable chubby cheeks.  And I can hardly wait until I get to meet her in person.

In a way, it seems unreal that Mallory is already here.

Perhaps you can remember when we were picking names and debating on genders right here on my blog late last summer? It really wasn’t all that long ago, and yet it almost feels like a lifetime has happened between then and now.

One thing about grief is you never know what will blindside you. For example, I never anticipated my niece’s birth to bring up an entire host of intense emotions. But then again, I never anticipated my father wouldn’t be around to see the birth of this granddaughter.

I remember his delight as he announced to me what my sister had already told me, that he would be getting a new grandchild. While I cannot remember if he predicted this baby would be a boy or a girl, I do know he was tickled pink when Brooke announced she was expecting another daughter. And I certainly recall how he adamantly insisted that no grandchild of his would ever be named Hazel because a long time ago he had a mean teacher name Hazel and he had never liked the name since.

Now Mallory is with us, but my dad isn’t … and that leaves me with a strange lump in my throat that mingles with the joy and excitement of being an aunt again. As much as I already adore and love that sweet baby girl, her arrival makes me miss my father’s presence a little more. I definitely wasn’t prepared to experience these feelings along with my niece’s birth.

But truthfully, I wasn’t prepared at all for January 2015.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ask my children and they will tell you that I am often reminding them not to wish their lives away.

Enjoy being thirteen,” I tell my middle girl. “I know there are so many things you want to do … drive a car, go on a date,  You will be Sweet Sixteen you know it. But thirteen will never come around again.”  (Of course, I don’t tell her that very few are the number of adults who would actually voluntarily live through being 13 again.  She’ll discover that soon enough on her own.)

I know Geometry is a pain in the rear, but instead of wishing you could go back to elementary school, focus on the good things about being in the 10th grade.”  (Of course, the high school sophomore doesn’t want to heed that advice. It’s much easier to moan and complain.)

But lately, I haven’t been able to take my own advice either.

I’m stuck in the middle of January, and I can’t get out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paige, Lately God has put you on my heart, and I’ve been praying for you.  What I’d really like to do is something that would help and encourage you. Can I take the two little ones one day this week? My girls and I would enjoy spending time with them and giving you a bit of a break.

I thought I was surely hearing things.

It was Sunday afternoon. Just that morning, while the rest of my family worshipped at church, I sat at home with two small children and prayed, “God, I just need a break. I’m weary and worn and I can’t go on much longer.

Now my friend had called me out of the blue, with an offer so sweet it felt as welcome as drops of water on parched, dry lips.

All month long I’ve felt alone in the trenches, forgotten in the battle, desperate for some piece of encouragement. Day after day I get up, put on a brave face and continue to soldier forward into the fray that has become my daily life … aching for February, and hoping that with it will come a blessed relief to my soul.

But here was my relief.  And it came while it was still January.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The God of the Bible has many names, and one of my favorites has always been El Roi, which is translated as “God Who Sees.”

I might have felt alone, but God always saw me. He didn’t forget about me, and my little life currently filled with so much stress.

And while I desperately desired nothing more than a new month on the calendar as a hope of getting some peace restored, God sent someone to minister to me right in the middle of the longest, driest month of my life.

When my January wouldn’t end, God gave me something better than February.

He gave me a friend.

a_godly_friendship

Yes, it’s still January and all my troubles are still here. But I have been reminded that I am not alone … and today, my friend ministered to my heart, bringing to me a taste of God’s peace and love right in the middle of winter in my soul.

I am thankful for friends who do such nice things in the middle of January. I am grateful to be loved by a God who sees me and loves me and cares about my heart.

And both of these things are better than anything February might bring.

Two are better than one … For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.  ~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

Thank you, Lauren … you’ll never know how very much today was needed. I’m grateful for a friend like you.

Heading Home for the Holidays

homeforxmas

I’ll be home for Christmas … you can count on me.

Tonight, once Jon gets off work and we’ve eaten a quick supper, I’ll be heading home for Christmas. And I have to admit that it doesn’t feel quite right now that Dad won’t be there with us.

I had already purchased a gift for my dad prior to his death. I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to give it to him for his November birthday or wrap it up for Christmas. Instead, I used it in our church’s gift exchange last weekend.

Actually, I had completely forgotten about the gift, stashed away in the back of my closet, until I went in to look through my collection of already purchased presents after Thanksgiving. It wasn’t an extremely personal or sentimental sort of a gift, just an outside LED light, the kind that looks like a lantern and has a hook for hanging.  This was also came with a bug zapper (which is needed practically year-round in Louisiana). It’s the very sort of thing my dad would have loved. He was forever giving flashlights to people. In fact, my boys have already bemoaned the fact that they won’t be receiving their annual flashlight from Poppa this year for Christmas.

Yes, my father loved flashlights. The man had a vast collection of emergency lighting, everything from dollar store flashlights to kerosene lamps to expensive LED lighting. Oddly enough, most of his great stash of emergency lighting never worked.

In light of my last post (which you can read here), this dichotomy cracks me up. My little foster son and his love for lights sort of reminds me in a weird way of my dad. I think he would have gotten a lot of pleasure out of showing off his flashlight collection to Lil’ Man.  Quite often I feel sad that he never got to meet and know my two foster babies. As much as my dad loved children, he would have adored these two little ones.

home

Going home … back to the ‘Burg and the house on the hill.

This grief I’m experiencing is the strangest thing to my 42 year old mind. My dad died and I find that I just want to be with my Mama, as if I am some child who has woken in the middle of the night needing to be reassured of her presence in the dark. Some days, most days, if I could choose where to go and what to do, I would want to go home just to be there with my mother. And yet, nothing makes me sadder than going home.

Sadder because there, in the places my dad lived out his life,  I miss him more than ever. His figure seems to be waiting right around the corner of every door. His shadow sitting in every chair. His laughter echoing through the rooms. His cup of coffee just waiting to be poured.

Sadder because my mother, due in part to her own grief and perhaps also because of her reserved and introverted personality, is not truly able to be my comforter. It was not ever really her role in my life even while my dad lived, and so it cannot suddenly become that way in his death … no matter how much I might want it or wish for it.  To have other expectations is unfair to her and only serves to increase my own disappointment and grief.

Going home … will it ever feel the same again?

Deep inside my heart is a longing to go home.

I can go back to the town where I grew up, see the familiar faces and drive the roads I know like that back of my own hand. I can return to the house where my parents lived. The furniture inside is still the same. The meals my mother puts on the table are the old favorites we’ve always eaten. Technically, I am home.

Yet, its not quite right. There’s a hole, larger than I’ve ever known before, and because my dad’s not there sitting next to my mom beaming his wonderful smile it doesn’t feel exactly like the same home I’ve always known and loved.

This is the first Christmas without my dad. I’m told that future ones will be easier, that this grief will eventually begin to subside. “You’ll never stop missing your dad,” friends have said. “But the pain will not hurt quit so much.”

I’m sure they are right. One day I won’t feel the deep ache in my heart and the lump in my throat will go away. But I’m not there yet …

Yet, you know … my dad is there. He is in that perfect place of peace and rest, in the arms of the Heavenly Father. No pain. No sorrow. No fear. No worries. Just worshipping the Savior and basking in the glow of the One who is Light … a light that never runs out of batteries or needs recharging or has a burned out bulb.

not-my-home

I can’t go home  … for this world is not my home. 

My mother has said it to me many times when I would complain about my life’s circumstances:

Paige, don’t expect life to be perfect. If it was, what reason would you have to long for heaven? Remember, this world is not your home.

Her words were truer than true, almost as if the woman read her Bible on a regular basis.  (She does! She is a wise one, that mother of mine.)

In fact, she is in good company, for the writer of Hebrews (who many say was the Apostle Paul) said very nearly the same thing:

For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come. ~Hebrews 13:14 ESV

And Peter wrote about it as well.  (Though I do not make The Message my main study Bible, I happen to love the wording for this verse in that translation.)

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.  ~1 Peter 2:11 MSG

I can’t really “go home” as long as I live on this earth. But some day I will go to my eternal home. And because my dad has already gone on before, I long for it just a little more than ever before.

Yes, I’m going home for Christmas. I’ll be there with presents and hugs. I’ll join in the laughter and make memories with the ones I love most on this earth.

And though I’ll miss my dad, I’ll cherish the memories of Christmases we had together  … and look forward to the day when I get to go home and join him around the Throne of Grace.

Yesterday

Yesterday my daddy was buried.

It’s surreal. All the hugs, the memories shared, the flowers, the tears … it’s been nothing but a hazy fog. The reality of what has happened hasn’t truly begun to sink in, not even the slightest bit. And for now, I’m okay with this shell-shocked feeling.

But I know it won’t always be this way.  Soon, very soon I imagine, the deep grief will begin to work its way in and I will have no choice but to walk through that valley.

While I am sure the grief associated with the loss of a parent is completely different, I have grieved before … the deaths of two beloved great-grandmothers and two close grandparents whom I adored; the unexpected loss of a 14-year marriage, the pain of infertility.  I know what it feels like to be in a dark place of sorrow.

More importantly though, I know from those experiences that the words of the psalmist are true:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. ~Psalms 34:18

Photo Credit: https://web.stanford.edu/group/poeticthinking/cgi-bin/wordpress/?p=1459
Photo Credit: https://web.stanford.edu/group/poeticthinking/cgi-bin/wordpress/?p=1459